Leslie Walker of Hull University studied 63 patients with newly diagnosed cancers, all of whom were receiving chemotherapy and standard anti-nausea drugs. The patients were split into three groups. One group was given relaxation tapes, another received the tapes plus hypnotherapy to reinforce their effect. The third received neither.
Walker followed up the patients 13 years after diagnosis. "We found that the patients who had received relaxation or relaxation and hypnotherapy lived significantly longer," he says.
New lease of life
On average, patients in the relaxation and hypnotherapy group lived an average of 10.7 years after diagnosis, patients who used only the tapes lived 8.7 years and patients with neither lived 7.8 years.
But Walker stresses that the patients differed in age and the stage of disease when treatment started. So although the differences are significant, translating hypnotherapy plus relaxation into three extra years of life is not possible, he says.
How the relaxation and hypnotherapy may increase survival is not clear. Other studies of cancer patients have found that similar treatments can boost levels of killer T cells. But researchers have not been able to link this rise with increased survival.
"Chemotherapy and radiotherapy tend to suppress immune system functioning, so small interventions may help patients be more resistant to these effects," Walker says.
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